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Congressman Don Beyer to Introduce Bill Changing U.S. House Elections (June 26, 2017, 11:01 AM)

On Monday, June 26, Virginia Congressmember Don Beyer will introduce the Fair Representation Act. In most states, it would end single-member districts. See this Huffington Post article for an explanation.

Maine Legislature Will Act on Ranked Choice Voting on Tuesday, June 27 (June 26, 2017, 10:27 AM)

The Maine legislature will still be in session on Tuesday, June 27, and is expected to act on ranked choice voting bills.

New Hampshire Libertarian Party Will Hold Press Conference on June 27 to Reveal the Name of a Third Legislator Who Has Joined the Party (June 26, 2017, 10:15 AM)

The New Hampshire Libertarian Party will announce on Tuesday, June 27, the name of a third legislator this year who has switched his or her voter registration to “Libertarian.”

Minnesota Waives Right to Respond in U.S. Supreme Court Over Law Banning ?Political Clothes? at Polls (June 25, 2017, 02:14 PM)

Minnesota has a law banning voters at the polls from wearing any clothing, or anything on their person, with a political message. The ban doesn’t just cover messages relating to items that are on the ballot. Most states that have restrictions on clothing at the polls limit the restriction to clothes that relate to some candidate, party, or ballot measure that is actually on the ballot in that election; Minnesota’s ban is far broader.

The lower federal courts upheld the Minnesota law in Minnesota Voters Alliance v Mansky, and the plaintiffs then asked for U.S. Supreme Court review, case 16-1435. On June 15, Minnesota told the U.S. Supreme Court that it waives its right to file a brief in this case. If the U.S. Supreme Court is interested in hearing this case, it will undoubtedly ask the state to respond. But that won’t be until October 2017 at the earliest, because the Court is about to go on its summer recess.

The particular clothing items in this case were T-shirts mentioning the Tea Party. The Tea Party has never been on the ballot in Minnesota, where it has only functioned as a pressure group.

U.S. Supreme Court Trademark Decision Might Affect Election Law as Well (June 24, 2017, 11:14 PM)

On June 19, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law that says the Patent and Trademark Office must not approve any trademark that may “disparage…or bring…into contempt or disrepute” any “persons, living or dead.” The decision, Matal v Tam, 15-1293, is unanimous.

The basis for the decision is the free speech portion of the First Amendment. The government had tried to defend the law by saying that when the government grants a trademark, that is really government speech. The Court rejected that argument.

The government also tried to defend the law by saying government can restrict speech if the government is creating a valuable platform for the person or group which applies for the trademark. The Court rejected that argument as well.

The government argued that the law treated everyone alike, because no one is permitted to register certain types of names, but that argument was also rejected.

The logic of this decision would seem to apply to Voter Handbooks, which are created by state governments in some states and mailed to every registered voter. These Handbooks typically let parties or candidates publicize their message. Sometimes governments try to restrict what the party or candidate says. For example, in 2016, the California Secretary of State refused to let one candidate for U.S. Senate, Paul Merritt, say that he is a registered independent. Also the California law does not permit any candidate to mention his or her opponent.

Merritt is currently suing over the censorship of his 2016 statement in the California voters handbook. The case is still in U.S. District Court.

Connecticut Voter Who Sued Over Being Expelled from the Republican Party Fails to get Any Relief in Federal Court (June 24, 2017, 01:11 PM)

In 2015, Jane Miller, a former Republican nominee for public office and a registered Republican, was expelled from the Republican Party. She therefore was unable to vote in the closed Republican presidential primary in early 2016. She filed a federal lawsuit in April 2016 charging that the Republican Party violated her rights. However, on March 29, 2017, U.S. District Court Judge Alvin Thompson, a Clinton appointee, ruled against her. Miller v Dunkerton, 3:16cv-174.

The federal court ruled mostly on procedural grounds, arguing that her state court case (which she had lost) prevents the federal court from re-litigating the matter. Miller had been expelled because she had temporarily changed her affiliation to “independent” in order to be nominated by the local Democratic Party for a local partisan office. She did not win that election, and after it was over re-registered Republican, but then her new Republican registration was cancelled. Connecticut state law permits parties to block people from registering if they are deemed to be insincere. New York has a similar law. Last year, though, she was readmitted to the Republican Party.

Maine Bill that Moderately Improves Ballot Access Becomes Law (June 23, 2017, 05:32 PM)

Maine LD 1571 makes moderate improvements in ballot access for newly-qualifying parties. It says that the deadline for a group to obtain 5,000 registered members is January of the election year, rather than December of the year before the election.

More importantly, it says that a newly-qualifying party has two elections before it must meet the requirements for a party to remain on. The standard for a party to remain on is that it have 10,000 registered members who actually cast a ballot in a general election.

Finally, the bill clarifies that the Libertarian Party is a qualified party for 2018. But in November 2018, if the law remains unchanged, the Libertarian Party must have more than 10,000 registered voters, because it must have 10,000 registered members who cast a ballot in November 2018.

The new law is still subject to court challenge. The deadline of January of an election year is still preposterously early. Also the law on how a party remains on the ballot is not sensible. If a party has enough support to be recognized in its first year if it has 5,000 registrants, why should it have more than 10,000 to remain on, several years later? If Maine would let a party keep its registrants when it goes off the ballot, a party that went off the ballot for not having 10,000 registrants could instantly come back into legal existence, because it would have had at least 5,000, so it could instantly again be qualified. The problem with that is that when a new party ceases to be qualified in Maine, election officials convert all its members instantly to independents, a policy that itself is probably unconstitutional. Courts in Colorado, New York, New Jersey, and Oklahoma have ruled that states must let voters register into unqualified parties as well as qualified ones.

New Political Science Research on Top-Two (June 23, 2017, 05:15 PM)

Political scientists Eric McGhee and Boris Shor have published “Has the Top Two Primary Elected More Moderates?” Anyone may read the 36-page paper at this link. The authors studied California and Washington, which are the only two states that use top-two (as they explain on page 6 and 16, Louisiana and Nebraska don’t have top-two systems).

They conclude that since top-two started in each state, California Democrats in the legislature have become more moderate, but California and Washington Republicans and Democrats in Congress have not; nor have Republicans in the legislatures of either state moderated. The paper suggests that a strong reason why California Democrats in the legislature have moderated is because of three other changes made almost simultaneously: (1) redistricting reform; (2) term limits were eased; (3) the California budget no longer takes a two-thirds majority in each house of the legislature. But the paper believes that top two has probably had some moderating effect on California legislative Democrats.

Page 27 says, “The results of these analyses suggest virtually no effect of the Top Two in Washington or for Republicans in California.” That page also says that because members of congress are not subject to term limits, whereas members of the California legislature are subject to term limits, therefore term limits is probably the main reason why the results are different for California Democratic legislators, versus California Democratic members of the U.S. House. Thanks to Rick Hasen for the link.

California Republican Assemblymember Declares for Governor in 2018 (June 23, 2017, 12:59 PM)

On June 22, California Republican Assemblymember Travis Allen announced that he will run for Governor in 2018. Another Republican, John Cox, had already announced for Governor. See this story. The Allen candidacy increases the odds that the June 2018 primary will cause only two Democrats to qualify for the November ballot. Allen represents the Huntington Beach area of Orange County.

South Dakota Supporters of Top-Two Will Attempt to Qualify an Initiative for Top-Two in 2018 (June 23, 2017, 12:42 PM)

South Dakota supporters of top-two systems will try to qualify an initiative in 2018 for their system. See this story.

The story is erroneous when it says that Louisiana has a top-two system. Louisiana had a top-two system from 1975 through 1997, but after the Louisiana version of top-two was declared to violate federal law (in the US Supreme Court decision Foster v Love), Louisiana abolished primaries and only has general elections in November (for Congress) and a run-off in December if no one gets 50%. Thanks to Mike Drucker for this news.

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